Somebody has to say it – Melissa McCarthy just isn’t funny. Sure, she’s been the cause of some laughs in small roles, but you can say that about almost anyone, including a lot of people who aren’t even actors. What I’m trying to say is, I can’t see how or why anybody finds her funny. This was never more apparent to me than when I was watching Spy, a film that she was both the main character in, and almost ruined.
So a lot of comedians have their ‘shtick’. Jim Carey has flailing limbs and a rubber face, Adam Sandler has getting angry shouting into the camera, Will Ferrell has crying loudly, Kevin Hart has being small and loud, Seth Rogen has being high all the time and so on. If you like a particular comedians ‘shtick’, then it’s likely you’ll be a fan of most of their work, but just what is Melissa McCarthy’s routine? To me, all she ever seems to do is shout and swear as loudly as possible, and she’s not even particularly good at that.
I would be a fool not to point out that three of the four comedians I mentioned have a similar routine, Sandler, Ferrell and Hart, who all regularly just get louder in an attempt to be funnier. Sometimes it hits, and sometimes it doesn’t, but they’ve all shown that they’re capable of more. Adam Sandler is a really good dramatic actor, even if he doesn’t show it very often. Will Ferrell has also got some decent dramatic performances under his belt, and while he does often play the Ron Burgundy-esque role, films like The Lego Movie, Stranger Than Fiction and The Other Guys have all shown that he’s capable of more. Kevin Hart… always does the same thing, I have to give you that one, but he’s damn good at it. If he wants a long career, however, he will need to start adding some diversity to his roles.
So I know I said ‘I can’t see how or why anybody finds her funny’, but I suppose there probably are people out there that like her ‘shtick’, which is great, I just don’t understand why. There have only been two times that I’ve found her watchable, the first of which was in St. Vincent, the only time I’ve known her to play a role that isn’t just herself, and the second one being The Heat.
The Heat is a bit of an exception to my dislike for her. I can’t put my finger on what she did differently, but something about her performance in it was just better than usual. Perhaps it was the writing, or maybe her chemistry with Sandra Bullock, but either way, I would struggle to think of any funny moments she had from that film, so I suppose it’s still not that great. So just what is the paradox I’m talking about?
While I think Melissa McCarthy isn’t particularly funny, I think she’s one of the most important actors in Hollywood today. There are a few reasons for that, but essentially they all boil down to one thing: she’s doing things other people aren’t, particularly other women. She has a major release at least once a year where she is not only the main character, but the main draw for the film, and she brings people in (perhaps with the exception of Tammy, but I’m sure even she knows that was a stinker). With Ghostbusters she’s about to be handed one of the lead roles in a major franchise reboot. She’s managed to make a major sitcom for multiple seasons alongside becoming one of the most bankable comedy actors working today.
What’s much more important than any of that is that she has a large female fanbase. Even some of the most successful female actresses struggle with achieving that, and it’s fair to say that it’s been the undoing of many potential careers. After all, women make up more or less half the movie going audience, as much as it might not always feel like it.
There is one more thing that I wish I didn’t have to discuss, but it’s another reason I believe she’s so important to the industry at the moment. Melissa McCarthy isn’t a ‘traditionally attractive’ actress. While it would be nice if I didn’t have to say this, that is perhaps what most stands out about her. For a long time, it’s been completely acceptable in comedies to have the ‘funny fat guy’ stereotype be the main character, one that’s capable of doing and achieving just as much as any other lead in a film. Someone like Melissa McCarthy, on the other hand, would traditionally be made fun of, or be the butt of jokes, so it’s a good thing to finally see this change happening.
I recently watched Spy for the second time, which was a film I enjoyed more than Third Act contributor Matt Dennis, but still didn’t love. There was, however, one thing about Melissa McCarthy’s performance that struck me. She is actually a pretty decent dramatic actress. I can easily see myself becoming a big fan of hers if she focuses more, or at least explores this aspect of her career more.
What do you think of Melissa McCarthy? Do you agree with me, or do you love her ‘shtick’? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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